Wednesday, March 17, 2021

In the Face of Hate

In the face of hate
I look on with love
Love for the object of scorn
Love for the broken fragments 
Of what once was whole
That fly like shrapnel to destroy
In word
In movement
In the absence of action
To shield the face
From the ugly display
Of those who have forgotten
Whose they are 
To Whom we belong
As One
Parts of one body
Fearfully and wonderfully made
Now just fearful
Because the wonder was lost
Lost in the perversion of the image
Of the Creator by the created
Into their own image 
Of power
Of lust
Of grandeur and glory
Servant becoming master
Of their own gospel which
Betrays THE Gospel
Which liberates us all 
From the chains that bind 
Instead of cuffing us 
In new shackles
Which will never let us be
Free from the prisons
Of our own creation
That distort our faces
Into stranger beings
Instead of neighbors
Where love is lost 
And hate is made
But Love demands 
We let our hearts
Break from the breaking
Of the whole into shards
Until love is found
In the remnants and rubble
To be cobbled back together
Transforming animosity 
Into amity
Where in the face of hate
Love overwhelms and
In presence
In power
Turning the other
Into "our"...

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Screaming Into the Void

Well, hello again... After such a long hiatus, I'm not even sure anyone is still here. That's okay. I've taken to screaming into the void these days. My kids rarely hear me, so it's also possible I only speak in supersonic decibels audible to dogs and dolphins only. 

It's a shame I didn't think to begin writing again last year this time. What a year of posts that would have been! Between a pandemic and the losses we faced as a result, the racial strife that surfaced following the killing of George Floyd (though if we're honest it was last straw given the stream of names before him), the political polarization that has infiltrated our families and churches, the false narratives surrounding the presidential election, the failed insurrection to begin the new year, the rise and fall of Q and its lasting effects, the to mask or not to mask controversy that ought not be a controversy, and now Harry and Meghan spilling the tea like it's Boston Harbor, I could have written some things. 

As it is, I'm exhausted just writing that list, which is NOT exhaustive. I've been doing a lot of reading, a lot of listening, a lot of learning, some complaining, all to seek to understand better the undercurrent of what is going on around us at this moment of history. We did not get here overnight, and we will not rise from what is hidden in the ashes without some hefty work. The question remains if people are willing to look at the charred remains to examine the wreckage that has been smoldering for longer than many of us have been alive. 

Are we willing to examine truthfully how what once was has created what is now? Are we willing to  endure some discomfort and listen to the experiences of those who have suffered and are still? Can we express our anger and indignation at the injustice of the past with a desire to heal without destruction? 

These are the big questions for which I have no answers tonight. How is today different than a year ago? Will all these conversations we have had over this past year just be us screaming into the void, where nothing changes? Or can we find a way to walk through the rubble together to find a way forward that creates space and freedom for each of us? What does that take? I don't know. 

I do know that far too often my days are tinged with sadness. I like to think it's because I asked Jesus to conform my heart to His. In reality, it is also likely because some days I lose hope that we will find a way out of this volatile place we are in right now. I am frustrated by the way people remain blind to what is in front of them, whatever their reasons may be. I am angered by polarized entrenchment that bastardizes the Gospel. So yes, my heart breaks for what breaks the heart of Christ. But also I am weary of our human nature and the losses we have endured.

I also know we must keep screaming. Or speaking at the very least since we are working on less noise around here. Whether I see the fruit of my effort or not, I have to remain faithful to the call God has placed on my heart to speak up for the oppressed, for the least. Matthew 25 gave me my first glimpse of Jesus. It's not going to let me off the hook now. 

So we speak up for dignity where we can. We pour into people the goodness and mercy of Christ. We help one another see the beauty of blessing within the brokenness. We keep each other accountable and honest. We remain with each other as we muddle through these murky waters together. And we leave the rest to God. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Thoughts Amid a Scandal

Not everyone has heard of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on the nefarious plot to cover up sexual abuse by priests within the many diocese there. Everyone should. I won't link to it here because it is graphic and frankly, I couldn't read more than excerpts. There are many lessons to be learned here, and much to be said that is not being said. I've been mulling around many thoughts in my head since the McCarrick news hit. I've been waiting and praying - maybe writing would just add more noise. But 300+ priests. 1000+ victims/survivors.

Then yesterday. And today - so much silence overall.  Late statements, weak statements, no statements. Not to mention much of the report is still redacted based on the objection of church officials to the publication of names. I have mixed feelings regarding this. If someone was cleared, their name should not be associated. Given the massive cover-up, I don't have the same sympathy for those who were not charged since the opportunity for legal action was denied, discouraged, and delayed beyond the statute of limitations. Perhaps I am wrong in this, but it is my honest opinion. You didn't ask, but here are a few more nuggets of honesty from this Catholic convert mama.

  1. Dear Victims/Survivors, I am sorry. Utterly disgusted and sorry that not only did you endure such abuse at the hands of those charged to be emissaries of Jesus Himself, but that you now must relive every moment and listen to posturing and positioning by the varied "sides" of this "debate." This is not a debate. This is your life. This is your pain. For many of you, this day never came as you have gone on to the next life. May Jesus comfort you and may you finally be believed and seen. I see you. I believe you. I am horrified and angry and disgusted for you. 

  2. Dear Bishops of the US Church, stop writing letters. Please put away the pen and paper and flowery pastoral documents waxing philosophical and theological on these issues. I want to see your faces - on the media, in the parishes, with the people. I want to see your anguish and tears alongside us who are disgusted. I want to know you are horrified. I want to hear three things only: This is evil. We are sorry. We will repent and rectify.

    No more defense or explanation that things are better now since Dallas (which does not apply to the bishops from my understanding!). No more. Be vocal and visible shepherds of Christ. And if you had any part in covering up these actions, resign. In the name of Jesus remove yourself from the office you hold. I don't want to hear it was complicated. A life in Christ is a challenge - where were the men more interested in protecting the vulnerable than making an easier road for themselves? Where? Where were the men of courage and honor who were interested, no, committed as Christ would be, to risk condemnation and suffering on behalf of those who were abused? Where? 

  3. I am not tied to the institutional Church. It exists to serve the mission of Christ. Having worked in a diocesan office, I have no presumption that there is something other-worldly that happens there. There is dysfunction like anywhere else. Perhaps that has soured me to the structures that exist. Like my husband says, no one wants to see the sausage made.

  4. Pennsylvania is probably not an anomaly. They just conducted a state-wide grand jury investigation. Think on that. Then reflect on the silence you hear.

  5. Bishops (again) - if there are other secret files that still exist, bring them to light yourselves. Clean the house. Air the laundry. Do it in the name of Jesus so as not to cause another to stumble. That's your job. This isn't Animal House - there is no double secret probation. No more silence. No more protection. 

  6. Despite the vile abuse at the hands of priests and bishops over those 70 years, there are many many many holy and honorable men who serve as priests, and some as bishops. Imagine for a moment their heartbreak and anguish at this betrayal. We as a community of the faithful need to be more vigilant in not only praying for our priests, but providing and creating healthy communities for them so they do not fall prey to despair and isolation. 

  7. No, I do not think this means priests need to be married. Reference Willow Creek, the Southern Baptists, the Dr. Nassar horror, etc. What kind of misogyny says that a wife's role is to curb her husband's sexual appetite so he won't harm the vulnerable? Preying on a vulnerable population is a horrid sickness - it requires treatment, not marriage. Healthy people do not prey on people. Sexual abuse is about power, not sex. Sex is the means. This is about controlling our appetites - be it for power, sex, money, or prestige.

  8. I have seen the agendas of men of the cloth play out to the detriment of their "brothers." Call it out. Many good, holy priests live in fear of being the victim of false accusations and then being fed to the lions. It happens. There must be prudence and our bishops must seek to protect the dignity of all those in their care - ordained and laypeople alike. Protecting their innate dignity AND eternal soul includes restoring fully a reputation sullied by false charges AND admitting fully and with grave concern (and no excuse) the guilt of those who have violated another.

  9. Purification of the church has been an ongoing discussion for numerous years. It will come, but not in the way many "righteous" have sought after it.

  10. The same polarity that exists in our political discourse exists in the church. It is sadly seeming to be an all or nothing from both "sides." Why are there even sides?? While over the last day it has lessened, the initial responses were ALL clericalism versus ALL sexual depravity. We are a church of both/and on just about everything. Here too. There can be no scapegoats - it isn't the women, the homosexuals, the [enter group to blame here]. The depravity existed in seeking out and passing around vulnerable victims to feed disgusting appetites. The clericalism kept it quiet for fear of losing power, looking bad, believing horrible things about a brother, or rocking the boat. Again - the abuse happened and it was evil. Where were the men who were willing to risk themselves to make sure it never happened again? I know they were "different times," but the Gospel wasn't different. Jesus is on the side of the least. Always.

  11. I still love my faith. It may baffle people, but I do. I love my Church. It is MY church - I joined it as an adult and it is mine. It is where Jesus has called me. It is where I find Him. The offenders will not steal our church. The offenders will not steal our faith. The offenders will not steal our future. This is our moment to stand against the darkness and evil that has been uncovered. This is our moment to demand, "NO MORE - in Jesus's name, no more." This is our moment to fight to restore and repent and cleanse and make a home for all to find Jesus again. As I wrote a friend earlier today, if that isn't your mission, then don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya. YOU leave. I'm digging in and getting my hands dirty. Let's get to it. 
These are the pinball machine thoughts rattling around my head. Where to go from here? Be vocal. Demand action. Pray, repent, and fast. Listen to those who are telling their stories. They are horrific, but important to understand.

God is merciful, but He is also just. I rely on the hope of His justice today.

Until next time, let's try to do better loving like Jesus okay?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Seven Quick Takes: On All the Things Left Unfinished, Simple Joy, and Thoughts of Home

Linking up with Kelly over at This Ain't The Lyceum for the first time in many moons, because - new blog + summer = a lot of random thoughts and notes, and not enough writing time!

1) To that end, choosing to dust off the keyboard and begin a new blog over the summer was not maybe the most brilliant idea I've had. While the end of May had me singing the "is school over yet?" blues, now that we are halfway through, I didn't anticipate the complete shock to our routine having everyone home would be. Rookie mistake. Note to future self: summer does not equal more time. Scale back on the projects, kid. 

2) Things that are on my home to-do list that have gotten exactly nowhere:

  • Repainting the kitchen cabinets
  • Organizing the basement to create a play space and non-chaotic studio storage
  • Clean out all the closets and make a thrift store crazy.
  • Paint an accent wall in our bedroom
  • Sleep train the toddler to reclaim our room

3) Things that are on my blog to-write list that are sitting as little notes on my phone:

  • Rethinking the Turquoise Table
  • On Love and Sainthood
  • Making the Internet a Kinder & Gentler Place
  • More on my conversion
  • Maybe Not Enough is Okay for Now

4) Things that are on my to-do list for the shop gathering dust:

  • Create a digital library of prints
  • Finally begin that darn newsletter
  • New jewelry designs
  • New print designs
  • Back to school products
  • New mug design
  • Play with new techniques as I explore new product lines
  • Finish and list Mirror Clings

5) Things my kids still want to do for the summer:

  • Go to the beach
  • Have all the playdates with all the friends
  • More nature hikes
  • Paint more things
  • Splash Pad, please?
  • Library visits
  • Legoland (because we just went to Sea Life)

6) Speaking of Sea Life, we just celebrated our middle son's sixth birthday. Six. Oof. This year, instead of trying to plan a party, or dance around the playground politics of who gets invited and who doesn't because we don't have all the money to invite all the kids to all the things, we took our kids and my mother in law on a surprise trip (to Sea Life). Thankfully, my sweet friend told me they were having a Teacher Appreciation promotion so we really lucked out and were able to enjoy the day for just $40 as opposed to over $100 WITH coupons. I'll pontificate on my thoughts about the expense of venues like this another day. I digress. The morning included all the fish he could image and then he was treated to lunch by his Nonna. Later, we had the rest of our immediate family over for store-bought cupcakes and pizza. 

While he still wants to have a bigger party one year because then he'll get more presents (we will work on detachment another year), he went to bed grinning from ear to ear saying it was the "most wonderful day!" Even his sister said she had a wonderful day "though it wasn't my birthday." I'll call that a win. I've learned to let go of the guilt about not having themed fancy parties I can photograph beautifully. This allowed me to relax and enjoy the moment . . . and the joy on his face was the best photo I could ever want.

7) Sadly, the day ended on a heartbreaking note as I learned about a severe tornado that ripped through my hometown of Marshalltown, Iowa. Praise the sweet Lord that there were no casualties or serious injuries. Seeing the video of the destruction and photos of the aftermath have left me oddly longing for home. I spent so much of my adolescence just dreaming about leaving, I was a little surprised how much I wanted to be back as I saw photo after photo of the rubble. It is, for better or worse, my home. It holds the last memories of my father and the earliest memories of my childhood. Even though I wasn't the biggest fan of junior high and high school, it holds the precious memories of friends and shenanigans and muddling through together. 

The iconic courthouse clocktower lost part of its steeple. The hospital had to be evacuated because it sustained structural damage. The main street businesses are decimated. The Colosseum roof was ripped off (with campers inside, thankfully safe and unharmed!). Lennox, one of the main employers in town, sustained major damage with a direct hit. There are so many of us who left town after graduation, now all feeling helpless and torn, wanting to be back and helping rebuild. If you would offer prayers for the residents as they recover and begin the long road to rebuilding, I would be ever so grateful.

That wraps up all the random thoughts for this week. Go visit Kelly for more - you won't regret it!

Until next time...go love 'em like Jesus!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Six Behaviors that Cripple Social Action

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 12:12-20

I've been around the block a few times when it comes to my involvement in the Church. It's been an ebb and flow, from wholly invested to peripherally active. I've participated in a wide range of groups and devotions, movements and actions. Through it all, I have worked to remain at the center of the cross with Christ. In it all, I've noticed some tendencies that pushed me closer to the peripherally active every time. Here are a few that come to mind.

1) Myopic Vision: There is a tendency of some in each segment of the church to see themselves as the most important portion of the body. If others have different passions and interests within the scope of faith in action, it is viewed as not only less-than, but in competition with and detracting from the work of this group. For instance, while many I have worked with in the pro-life movement see beyond abortion, there are just as many for whom it is impossible to see beyond this one issue. Take the current state of affairs. Too many are unable to move beyond the unborn to simply say that separating families as routine procedure is wrong. Note that I've not asked them to say it is more or less important that protecting the unborn. Yet, I am met with the statistics on abortion.

On the flip side, there are those who lay down their lives for refugees and the homeless, but when approached about the unborn seem disinterested at best, or bring up the quality of life for the mother and child. They cannot, or will not, simply acknowledge that the taking of life is wrong.

Myopic vision disables our ability to work together effectively toward a more just society. Period.

2) What-about-ism: This is a product of myopic vision. What-about-ism takes the current issue and brings it back in comparison to the person's pet issue. It stifles conversation, detracts from discussing the situation as it is so we can work together to arrive at a just solution, and negates the other's interest in the current situation.

What-about-ism diminishes the work of others unlike us, and cripples our ability to walk together in mercy for all the suffering.

3) Name Calling / Delusions of Grandeur: This should be an obvious one, and yet how often I hear different factions in the church calling those in other segments names. Heathens, "catholic in name only," weirdos, wack-jobs, deplorables, SJWs, traddies, etc. Our overestimation of our importance in the work of Christ severely reduces our ability to see the good in others who hear a different calling.

Name Calling closes us off to seeing Christ alive in the world through others unlike us, and sucks the life out of us and our work.

4) Distrust: There is, as I have observed, a tendency to believe the worst intentions of the "other." Instead of believing that they, too, are responding to God's call on their hearts, we believe them to be undermining our work, to be creating another faction that diminishes our ability to move ahead in our mission. We believe them to be misinformed, rather than trusting that maybe God is working differently in and through them than He is in us.

Distrust isolates us in our corners and keeps us from understanding the fullness of what Jesus offers and calls us to work toward in His Name.

5) Emotionalism / Exaggeration: There is no question that we have much work to do in the pursuit of a just society. While it may reap momentary benefits to play on people's emotions, relying on clickbait and emotive argumentation eventually drives the wedge between us more deeply. There is enough work for us to do without having to manipulate one another through emotional posturing. It is possible to care both for the homeless AND the migrant, for women's rights AND the unborn, for people of color AND the rule of just law. When you exaggerate or straight up fabricate information to emotionally manipulate another, is the motive to move toward justice or to bring another one to over your team? The work of Christ is not a game of Red Rover.

Emotionalism / Exaggeration makes liars out of us in the long run. It creates skeptics of our work, and ultimately of Jesus if we claim to be working in His Name.

6) Political Idolatry: There. I said it. I'll take my tums and hope for the best. There is a rampant problem with political idolatry. Party platforms have become gospel. They. Are. Not! Take it from a former devoted College Republican. There is no party of Christ. He is found woven throughout the spectrum of political ideology. It's easier to just say "ehhh...this party is pretty close," but that is shirking our responsibility to discerningly and carefully choose elected leaders who will not only do the least harm, but also advocate for the most good.

Political Idolatry makes it nearly impossible to have conversations that span the full spectrum of ideology in order to arrive at the best solution for the common good.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-20, St. Paul talks about how the body of Christ is like the human body -- no one part is greater than the other, and each part is vital to the full functioning of the body. The way I see it, the work of justice is the same. Each of us is called to act as part of our Christian witness. HOW we are called to act is different according to the gifts and passions the Lord bestows uniquely on us. As my friend's dad used to say, there's a seat for every derriere (though he didn't use the French...). Why try to fit a square peg in a round hole?

If instead we fanned the flames of the Spirit that burns in each of us, how much stronger would our work become? If the head and the heart and the hand and the foot and the lungs and the kidneys all worked together, each in their own way toward their specific mission, just imagine the power the body would have.

What is it you are passionate about? Is it the unborn? the homeless? the refugee? the environment? Can you recognize a different passion in someone else? Stoke BOTH embers and see how the Spirit sets the world on fire through you. There is MUCH work do be done. Let's get moving together.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Out of the Ashes, We Rise

Tap tap tap.

Hellooooo out there?

It has been a long while since I have sat at this keyboard and attempted to write. The layers of dust are thick, both on my blog and in my brain. Between the exhaustion of life and the draining nature of the current social and political climate, I've not been certain I wanted to throw open the windows!

Yet, here I am.

If there is one thing of which I am certain, it is that even though it may be just a small smoldering ember, when the Lord puts something on your heart, He will fan it into a flame in His time. I've come to realize I am in the business of small embers. While I'd like to be the flamethrower and burn all the things down some days, it is in the small things that God speaks to me, animates me to move with Him.

It is time to dust off the keyboard, throw open the curtains, and let some light shine back in to the corners of my heart and mind where God has been moving ever so slowly in power. It is time to put away the fear of conflict and begin to encourage conversation that builds.

If you are like me, you have a deep desire to fix all the things -- to take what is damaged in the world and restore it. The enormity of the task seems daunting, but I've come to realize that looking at the big picture can sometimes lead us to become paralyzed. No more, friend. Fixing the whole world is not our task. We have to find the one thing we can do today, right here and now. As Mother Teresa used to say to those who wanted to come work in the slums with her, we have to find our own Calcutta.

I don't have the answers to how to make right what is broken, I just know it has to start with me -- and you -- in small ways. I hope you will join me in the coming months.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Loving Ourselves, Loving Our Neighbor

The stories surfacing from those who were slammed with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are pouring in as fast as the floodwaters. They are heartbreaking and heartwarming in the same breath. These stories give insight to the true nature of people. It's been said that true character is revealed when no one is looking, and it appears that we've got some moxie and heart, not hate and division. Praise the Lord for that! Can the animosity and stupidity be washed away with the floodwaters please?

As I've been watching all this unfold from the comfort of our couch (and let's be honest - bed - because I rarely get right to sleep), my heart has felt drawn to those tiny island nations that were decimated by Irma. Please don't misunderstand. I'm heartbroken for those who lost everything, those who are now struggling to rebuild, those who lost their loved ones, their livelihood, and their lives here stateside. It's just that those images from a completely flattened nation-state are haunting me. Who will rebuild them? Where can they go? 

While I was pondering all of this last night, I reached out to a good friend whose lifeblood is rooted in the work of mercy. I asked in that safe space this very question. Who will help them, and why aren't we saying and doing more. God is so good to surround me with people who are wiser and can hear His voice more clearly. 

She reminded me of the tremendous financial impact the two hurricanes and fires have had in our own backyard. She reminded me that though I've seen images of a whole nation that is now uninhabitable, that in areas of Texas and Florida are places equally uninhabitable. She reminded me that in those areas likely live people, who because of their status and misfortune to be stuck in the middle of a political debate, have no access to resources to rebuild either. These people will also need private help because they have no other place to go. Then she left me with this gem which I am paraphrasing. We use our resources to clean up our backyard so the people down the street can help out our neighbors. The door to give remains open for all the world. When we are suffering, we mend ourselves first. Basic emergency training. Duh, Rakhi. Duh.

Thank you, friend, for helping me remember what I already know so well. We cannot rank and compare pain and misery. It is all awful and contrary to God's ultimate desire for us. While we have more resources as a nation that the islands that are on my heart, we also have a whole population that does not have access to them. So, those of us who can, give.

Please consider making a donation if you haven't already. Please choose something local so the money goes directly to those suffering. If you have the islands on your heart as I do, today is a good day to give through Google also - they have a button when you go to their website to give through Catholic Relief Services and they're matching donations. Please pray. Please give. There is so much destruction from which to recover. 


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